We appeal to Federal and state governments to make a firm commitment to the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed among the nations of the world as measurable indices of development. The United Nations (UN) revealed last week that the SDGs would cost Nigeria $337 billion between 2019 and 2022, which looks like too high a price. Although the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Mrs. Adejoke Adefulire, offered a substantially lower estimate of $55 billion per annum.
Admittedly, it is still a stiff price, but we must not lose sight of what it is expected to buy. It is part of the price to pay to change the lives of millions of our compatriots for the better.
We are also paying the price of past failures to plan, invest and focus on such vital issues as poverty, education, water, energy, inequality and several other indices of development. The countries which leaped from third to first world paid greater heed and solved those problems many years ago, while we are just waking up to them. And one of the critical factors has been our attitude to governance and our habitual inability to pursue programmes with vigour and steadfastness. Take the issue of education, a few weeks ago, a seven year-old primary three pupil, Success Adegor, created a huge buzz in the Internet protesting her being sent away from a class examination by the head teacher because she had not paid “examination” levy. Yet for nearly 40 years, Nigerians have taken a free universal primary education as a given. How does “examination levy” come into it? It took the Delta State incident to shock Nigerians as they watched a clear evidence of policy failure and why nearly12 million Nigerian children are out of school.
The Nigerian non-development story is a story of policy failures. Water supply, for instance, was an article of faith to the colonial government. About 100 years ago, the colonial government made sure there was pipe-borne water in the city of Lagos. The only dispute then was the payment of the water rate, with Herbert Macaulay, “father of Nigerian nationalism,” arguing that Lagosians were too poor to pay the rate. Today, less than 10 per cent of Lagosians have access to pipe-borne water, so there is open defecation everywhere. Indeed, it is projected by the UN that Nigeria is about to take the No. 1 spot in the world’s open defecation ‘championship’ since India has got its act together.
Thus, the biggest impediment to meeting the 17 worthy development goals is not the resources but the will to implement the policies that must drive the realisation of the goals. Take the issue of hunger. Although it is not observably acute, still there is a certain level of malnourishment which is noticed in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in several parts of the country especially in the Boko Haram terrorised North East region. It mostly affects children. Nigeria should be throwing away food and, sometimes, it does, especially due to lack of facilities for preservation and storage. But there is no doubt that the country can produce sufficient for its needs and if adequately motivated, may even have surplus for export.
Healthcare is a problem and drugs cost too much for the ordinary citizen. Primary healthcare is not reliable in most places, although rudiments of it exist. Gender equality is still a problem although some progress has been made. Nigerians get an average of four hours of electricity daily, on a lucky day, which is not much for anything. It is the biggest impediment to industrialisation and, in effect, employment and economic growth in the manufacturing sector.
Lack of electricity hampers almost all activities. Nigeria’s productivity would double if, by any miracle, there is access to more electricity. Government should improve the transport infrastructure with adequate train service that will cover the entire country. There is the need to also improve the quality of our roads.
Climate change is mentioned by the President when he speaks about his international appeals for the re-flooding or replenishing of Lake Chad. But not enough efforts have been made to halt desert encroachment, although Nigerians are anxious about landslides. There is a lot to be done to achieve the sustainable development goals. And they deserve to be done in the interest of future generations.